Tag Archives: afterschool

How does your afterschool program compare to the alternative?

As I sat in the waiting room of my doctor’s office recently, I picked up a copy of Parents Magazine and started thumbing through it. I came across an article entitled The New Latchkey Kids and was intrigued. They very next line after the title said “More than a million grade-schoolers have nobody to take care of them once class lets out. Where have all the after-school programs gone?” At the first sentence, I was nodding, knowing all too well how many children are at home unsupervised after school. At the second sentence, I did a double take; I had to make sure I had read it correctly. Knowing how many programs I visit on a regular basis, it was difficult to imagine how they could say that there was a scarcity. So, of course, I had to keep reading to find out.

Afterschool program tips

A few paragraphs into the article, it described the cuts in funding and limited access to affordable child care options. That may very well be the case. I can definitely see that being an issue for many families, as has been discussed in our Advocating for Children blog (November 2013) many times. It is a tough decision to send your child home alone because you can’t afford it, when there is so much evidence that child care programs, serving anywhere from infant through school-age, are incredibly beneficial to a child’s learning and development. It’s also tough, as a provider, to know that you are losing a child from your care, at no fault of your own. When I ran an after-school program in Indianapolis, there was a family of four children who needed to drop out of the program because of finances. Our fees were not high, but it was more than they could afford. I volunteered to pay for a month of care for them because I knew how crucial it was for the children to have somewhere to go.

Another section of the article touched on what the ‘ideal age’ is for a child to stay home alone. They cited that, at the time the article was published, only two states have regulations for a minimum age. Those states were Maryland (8 years old) and Illinois (14 years old). Other states had set recommendations, but many didn’t even have that. Knowing there is no minimum age for Ohio, I often find myself asking the staff I work with, “What would the children be doing if they were at home instead of in your program?” A lot of their answers revolve around video games and television or movies. Together we brainstorm ideas to make sure what they provide in their afterschool program is substantially different from that. When parents are faced with the whether to continue sending their child to an afterschool program because money is tight, they are going to want to see that there is more being offered in the program than what the child could do for free at home.

What are your thoughts on the availability of affordable child care, being providers of that care? What steps have you taken to ensure that parents want to send their children to you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

5 Myths of the School-Age Program

In my position at 4C, I work primarily with school-age programs. In my blogs, I strive to address all ages. However, today’s topic focuses on dispelling 5 common myths about school-age programs.

Myth #1: The children are only here for 3 hours, so there’s no need to do lesson plans.

It’s important for staff to be regarded as professionals, no matter how long they care for the children. By creating lesson plans and providing purposeful and meaningful activities for the children to do, the staff are held accountable for the time they are with the children. Also, the activities the children are given should enrich their school-day learning. If staff take time to plan activities, it ensures that this takes place.

Myth #2: We don’t have enough money to provide quality programming.

There are many different options for tight budgets. One option is to request things from parents that they would normally throw away: clothes for dramatic play, paper towel rolls for art projects, dried leaves or pine cones for science, etc. Another option is to use websites like The Freecycle Network, where people offer things for free or Toys from Trash, which shows you how to make literally hundreds of toys from odds and ends. A third option is to check thrift stores, garage sales or library book sales. I have a huge collection of board games, most of which were acquired for less than $3.00 at thrift stores.

Myth #3: Why should we do read-aloud when the children can read to themselves?

Read-aloud is not just for children who can’t read independently. From ‘Just Plain Reading’: A Survey of What Makes Students Want to Read in Middle School Classrooms, children stated that they viewed “teacher read-alouds as scaffolds to understanding because the teacher helped to make the text more comprehensible or more interesting to them.” The benefits of reading to school-age children are not much different than those of reading to younger children. It helps all aspects of their literacy skills, from reading and writing to speaking and listening. In fact, children are often able to listen on a higher level than they are able to read, so listening to read-aloud increases understanding of vocabulary and language patterns.

Myth #4: The children have been in school all day and now they only want free time.

Children do need to be provided with structured activities. Don’t get me wrong: unstructured free play is very important in the school-age program, but there should be a balance. Case in point: when I ran a middle-school program, on Fridays they had free play the whole time. Without fail, each Friday after about 20 minutes, children were asking me to organize an activity for them. Something as simple as setting up a project, game or read-aloud as a choice during free time can satisfy this need.

Myth #5: We don’t have enough space to provide quality programming.

I have seen programs in school cafeterias, shared spaces and converted staff lounges that make the best of the space that they have, and do it well. It may require moving furniture to play gross motor games when it rains or putting up and taking down paintings every day from the walls or keeping age-appropriate materials on a rolling-cart that is stored in a closet.

When it’s all said and done, remember one thing: where the program takes place does not dictate its quality; it’s what takes place that does.